The setting is a few scant days before the Earth stops rotation, going into the pole shift. A young reporter in New York City gets a tip about an interesting lecture by a local college professor, on geological cataclysms in our past and potentially in our future. His editor, following instructions, refuses to print the article. Discouraged and angry, the young reporter and his girl friend go on a camping trip out west. Red dust from the 12th Planets tail and a slowing rotation that has the campers wondering if they have insomnia, until they check their watches, affect a nearby rancher and his family too where the moaning Earth creates a panic among the ranchers cattle. Commenting about the confusion and disruption of services, the campers end up at the ranch, having run out of gas.
The long hot dawn finds the group stoically waiting, unable to use phones that crackle with static, only the reporters girl friend giving into her panic. The pole shift itself is first noticed by an old ranch hand, who sees the Moon on the move. Experiencing sharp jolts, the group moves to the storm shelter where they wait out the hurricane force winds. Life afterwards finds the group increasingly falling short on food while collecting various survivors from the nearby town and a small plane forced down by the winds. The group struggles to care for survivors who have been physically injured or mentally traumatized. We hear the story of the pole shift from the pilot of the small plane, stragglers from town, and a young woman who arrived from a nearby resort on horseback, pursued by a pair of local thugs.
Convincing the group that they should contact a nearby military encampment, a vet and a small envoy group soon find themselves captives of a power mad general intent on becoming an overlord of any surviving civilians. Escaping, the rancher sets the group at the ranch on the rove, but on the way they find evidence of worse horrors - cannibalism. At the river bend they encounter another group of survivors and join forces. Eventually the survivors, arriving at a dome city where bright and telepathic children live among the human survivors, face a stand off with the rouge military troop. A colonel from the military sets off to find his family, and is assisted by an alien during his travels. The film ends with the ranchers young son acting as a tour guide, taking some of the adults on a tour of lifeforms on other planets. Life inside the dome city increasingly experiences interaction with aliens, but the humans residents are often unaware of this.